Kentucky Derby: The Race for the Roses

The Kentucky Derby is an exciting, fast-paced held every year in Louisville, Kentucky to cap the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. It’s a thoroughbred horse race often referred to as “the fastest two minutes in sports” or “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” as it typically only lasts for approximately two minutes. This means it’s fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled, and short. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye, but plenty of fans see it as worth the year-long wait just to see it. The derby is also sometimes referred to as “the run for the roses,” because the winner of the race is traditionally decorated with a blanket of roses.

The Event
The main event of the two-week long Kentucky Derby, as we already mentioned, is of course, the race itself. A whole year of preparation and anticipation culminates in this roughly two-minute long event, the first leg of the American Triple Crown. In the derby, jockeys ride 3-year old thoroughbred horses at blazing speeds through a left-handed, 1 ¼ mile long, dirt track. The purse is around 2 million dollars, with almost 1.5 million going to the 1st place winner. The record for the race is 1.59 2/5 seconds, by Secretariat in 1973. The race itself is a tradition that’s been kept for over a century, as it was inaugurated in 1875.

The Festival
Of course, the race may be the main event, but there is, as we mentioned, a two-week festival that leads up to it. There are several traditions and much fun to be had in the festival itself. The race has a traditional beverage, known as the mint julep, an iced mixed drink of bourbon, mint, and syrup. There is of course, ample opportunity to obtain mint juleps for sipping pleasure at the festival, and you can get one in a souvenir cup to take home. In fact, the official souvenir cup first appeared in 1939, and there is a new version every year. The event also offers a popular dish known as burgoo, a thick beef, chicken, pork, and vegetable stew.

The rose blanket awarded to winners also has an interesting story. Allegedly, socialite E. Berry Wall sparked the idea in 1883 by presenting roses to women at a post-derby party. This party was attended by the founder and president of Churchill downs, Col. M. Lewis Clark. It is believed (though not confirmed) that this led to the idea of making the rose the race’s official flower. It was in 1896 that the first recorded instance of a rose blanket being awarded was recorded.

So if you ever think about attending the derby, whether to bet, to party, or just for the fun of the event itself, do come early and wander around the festival. It has a lot of rich culture and traditions, and good food and drink, to boot!